Saturday, November 21, 2009

A dream starts to be come reality!!!

Ok, so I'm a bit of a green freak. I've always thought God had a better plan than fossil fuel! I have a cabin in VA that is powered by the Sun. I love the outdoors, and think we as humans have been given a mandate to manage it well.

So, I've wanted to build a solar powered/heated house for a long time, but I also like living in downtown Raleigh - not a lot of solar stuff going on in urban areas. Then I realized that when I bought the 6 dilapidated shot-gun houses a few years ago I got two long narrow lots behind them that happened to have a direct southern exposure. The only problem was that the lot with the street frontage is only 20' wide at the front. Current zoning code requires 30'.

Tell me I can't do something, and I'll almost go nuts trying to figure out how. Guess what - in Raleigh if a lot's boundaries pre-date zoning, it is permisable to build a single family house on that lot as long as you can meet set-back requirements.

One hurdle down. The next problem is that with a 20' lot, and 15 foot combined setback requirements for the sides that only would leave room for a 5' wide house! Well, low and behold - another loophole! My lot happens to be in the New Bern-Edenton Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District (NCOD). This is a special zoning district designed to encourage development that preserves the character of the neighborhood. Many existing homes are built right up to the lot line, so current NCOD rules allow zero lot-line building. So now, I can fit a 16' wide house with 16" overhangs!!! With a direct southern exposure on the long side of the roof!

So, I've designed a house that is 16' wide (narrow for a house, but not for a room - so design a house with no hallways to waste space) that will be certified green built and certified Energy Star. It will generate more electricity from the roof than it uses, and will heat it's own hot water for domestic use and radiant floor heating. It will collect rain water to be used to flush the toilets, do laundry and water the plants. It will have an open floor plan and be liveable but not a McMansion. I will be able to have my urban cake and eat it too - with free sun heating my house and generating my electricity!

This week Tri-City Contractors dug my footers. They were inspected promptly and....

The concrete trucks arrived. A hard-working crew quickly filled the footer trenches.

Next week, after the footers harden, they will form some concrete walls to fill with gravel. Then they will install rebar grids. My radiant floor heating kit is on it's way. I'll be looping 4 separate zones of pex piping through grids to be buried in the concrete slab. On sunny winter days, the sun coming in the southern exposure windows and the fluid running through the roof top solar collectors will heat the 8" thick slab during the day and the heat will be released at night. I can hardly wait for the next step! This will be a long process though - I plan to finish the exterior of the house in 4 or 5 months, then slowly work on the inside - doing as much of the work as possible myself. I will move in after I've lived in my current house for 2 years and can take the tax break. So check back - I'll try to be better about posting regularly since this is such a cool project!

906 Oakwood - almost there. Anyone want to buy it?

Rhumba Orange. That's the color of 906 Oakwood - the last house on the corner of Oakwood and Seawell. The block has undergone quite a change in the last 18 months - almost no more prostitution and drug deals, a row of totally renovated, brightly colored houses, within walking distance of Raleigh's Main Street, and a really nice place to live.

This house has a very similar layout to 908 Oakwood - see previous post. The 3rd floor is larger - 2 full bedrooms and a bath, but other than that it's basically the same. Dark oak floors on the first floor - gas logs, open floor plan. Same exposed brick fireplace with gas logs.

The kitchen has Maple cabinetry, granite counters and stainless appliances. It will have glass mosaic tile on the backsplash. It's quite a bit larger than 910-916's kitchens because the house is bigger and more people will likely live here!
This house has all of the green features of 908 Oakwood as well - Icynene spray foam insulation, no VOC paint, Rinnai tankless water heater, high efficiency heat pump, energy star windows and doors and light fixtures. CF bulbs. So far, my power bills have averaged $31 per month next door!
The second and third floors will be carpeted. The second floor has a Master BR/Bath with access to the 2nd level front porch - great views! Also on the 2nd floor is a guest room with a full bath and an office/loft area. The third floor has two full bedrooms and a bath. Very useable space - a lot of livability for the square footage. Views of DTR from the 2nd and 3rd floors.
This house should go on the market in about 2 weeks for $324,900; but if you want to get a jump on the market email me and I'll be happy to show it!

908 Oakwood Finished

I've been a bit delinquent in posting, but that's because I've been busy! After working really hard on another house over the spring, I got 908 Oakwood done, then went on vacation to Peru and hiked the Inca trail. I moved into this house in early August and LOVE living back in the 'hood.

908 and 906 have a different floor plan and are larger than 910-916. That is because the original footprint was wider - closer to a square, so there was a bit more design flexibility. This house has 3 bedrooms plus a loft/office area and 3 1/2 bathrooms.
I am really enjoying the backard - when I'm not on the front porch! The back yard is a small area but very nicely landscaped. When the shrubs grow it will have some very nice natural privacy screens.
The living room is really cozy - not too big, but big enough and open to the dining area and kitchen - great floor plan for entertaining. I love the gas logs too! This house was spray-foam insulated, so it takes very little energy. My peak power bill (with A/C running full blast this summer) was $51. Not bad for a 1500 sq ft house. Last month the heat started cranking and I thought the bill might be a bit higher - $23!!! YEAH! GREEN BABY!
Speaking of Green, I did some other green things too. Bamboo floors, no VOC paint, low VOC woods in the cabinets, a paver-stone driveway with little runoff, of course Energy Star light fixtures, windows and doors, and CF bulbs and a Rinnai tankless water heater ($12 gas bills - cooking and water heating).
I like having a dining room table - missed that while living in 912 Oakwood. I like having folks over to eat.

The kitchen is significantly larger since this is a 3 br home. I used granite in this house rather than concrete - just because I didn't have time to make concrete counters again.

It's nice having an office with lots of natural light and a view of the DTR skyline!

The master BR has access to the 2nd floor porch on the street side - overlooking the cemetary - very pretty.

The TV is upstairs on the 3rd floor with a full bathroom - the roofline makes it cozy, and skylights keep it bright during the day. Very relaxing room.

So, at this point, there is one more house to go as far as renovation - 906 Oakwood, and we have just broken ground on 316 Seawell - but they are topics for separate posts!